231. Memorandum of a Conversation, White House, Washington, February 1, 1956, 12:07 p.m.1



  • US
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Robertson
    • Mr. Strauss
    • Mr. Stassen
    • Admiral Radford
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Mr. Smith2
    • Mr. Hagerty (part time)
  • UK
    • Prime Minister Eden
    • Foreign Secretary Lloyd
    • Ambassador Makins
    • Sir Harold Caccia
    • Sir Leslie Rowan
    • Sir John Whiteley
    • Mr. Coulson
    • Mr. Bishop3
    • Mr. Roper4

[Here follows a list of subjects discussed.]

1. Possible Future Berlin Airlift Limitations

Admiral Radford pointed out that in the event of another blockade of Berlin we could not count on maintaining an airlift. He said that the much greater USSR capacity for jamming electronic navigational aids would limit our flights to good weather. He pointed out that during the last Berlin airlift we were getting into trouble toward the end—wearing out our transport capability.

He reported that the Joint Chiefs doubt that the USSR would renew the blockade unless they had very serious hostile intentions. He felt that we should probe out these intentions in the event of another blockade by conducting a limited ground operation. The Secretary of State recalled that he had been consulted by the Truman Administration during the first Berlin blockade and that he had personally agreed with General Clay’s5 recommendation that a small armed force push overland to Berlin for rebuilding the destroyed bridges if necessary, as a means of testing Soviet intentions. Admiral Radford said he did not know why this had not been done.

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2. Joint Chiefs of Staff Views Regarding Force Reductions

Admiral Radford spoke also to the question of proposed reduction of conventional forces in connection with a disarmament agreement. He said that the U.S. forces had been reduced by 800,000 men since Korea without any reductions in U.S. commitments around the world. 60,000 to 70,000 troops must be retained in Korea if present command arrangements are to continue. A reduction of 200,000 men would really amount to a reduction of 300,000 because 100,000 would be needed for the proposed inspection force. Inspection would be unattractive duty requiring a large training effort.

Reduction in conventional forces would require recasting our deployments to NATO (Army, Navy and Air) and the Far East. He stated that U.S. conventional force commitments were stretched to the limit. He pointed out the large turnover in military forces, the low re-enlistment return which resulted in large training effort. He concluded that even a small cut would require redeployments which would have large political implications. Sir Anthony Eden stated that the British had reached approximately the same conclusions.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 648. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. This memorandum was given restricted circulation to appropriate U.S. officials on February 7. Another record of this conversation was prepared by Admiral Radford on February 2. (Naval Historical Center, Radford Papers, C–1, Eden Talks) The discussion dealing with atomic energy was recorded in a separate memorandum of conversation, infra.
  2. Gerard C. Smith.
  3. Frederick A. Bishop, Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister.
  4. John C. A. Roper, First Secretary of the British Embassy.
  5. General Lucius D. Clay, Commander in Chief of U.S. Forces in Europe and Military Governor of the U.S. Zone in Germany, 1947–1949.